From the 11th to the 13th of May 2022, the nature schools of Zurich, Wildnispark Zurich, Sihlwald and the SILVIVA Foundation welcomed around 120 forest educators to the 16th European Forest Pedagogics Congress (the annual congress of the FCN-Subgroup).
Under the motto "How to learn in and with nature in times of climate crisis? European perspectives and solutions", more than 20 workshops were offered by partners and participants.
We visited Sihlwald, the Hönggerberg Nature School and the Forest Laboratory in Zurich, and discussed what we had experienced and learned and how to proceed further at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Rüschlikon.
During the 16th European Forest Pedagogics Congress the contribution of forest pedagogy and learning in nature to deal with the climate crisis was discussed. We saw practical examples, exchanged experiences and laid the foundations for further effective actions at home and abroad.
Almost 120 participants of the European Forest Pedagogics network from all over Europe (including about 55 from Switzerland) spent almost a year preparing for the congress, developing new forest education projects or improving existing ones. At the congress, they exchanged their best practices for effective climate education on the ground, learned from each other and supported each other in improving.
Due to the planning and form of the congress, the participants were sent on a learning journey to learn as much as possible from each other before, during and after the congress in terms of content, methodology and organisation.
In our opinion, the project has shown how forest pedagogics and environmental education can contribute to tackling the climate crisis as effectively as possible.
The congress has certainly supported the intended goals of (forest) education providers doing effective climate education and (European) congresses being more climate neutral in the future.
Audio summary (German)
It is clear that education must contribute to combating climate change and that environmental education is predestined for this role. This is especially true for forest pedagogy and nature-based environmental education. But how can we do this and how can it be effective?
- What does contemporary forest pedagogy look like in times of climate change? What projects, programmes and approaches are there?
- How can/should forest pedagogy inputs/interventions be designed so that they make a contribution against climate change? And how can they be further developed?
- How can insights from climate education enrich the methodology of forest pedagogy?
We raised and discussed these and similar questions at the European Forest Pedagogics Congress 2022.
Flipped learning to prepare: Blog posts on forest education and climate in Europe
The discussion already took place before the Congress ("flipped learning" approach). This way we could share best practices and come to the Congress as well prepared as possible. This added quality and depth to our exchange and mutual learning on the ground.
Here you can find the overview of the blogposts on European forest education and climate. These are the seperate blogposts with the examples from all over Europe:
- Forest biodiversity preservation on the example of forest pedagogy activities
- The Climate caravan “Forest in a cart” - the new tool used by the Bulgarian forest pedagogues
- Good examples of forest related education on climate - Slovenia
- Forest Climate Weeks of the Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald - Switzerland
- You are the climate - how does an educational organisation achieve net zero by 2030?
- Educational materials on climate change
- Nature schools in the heart of Zurich
- Forest wildlife and climate - how does change become visible?
- Think climate change out of the box- make forest change a tangible experience for students
- Travelling sustainably – highly recommended!
At the end of this learning journey, participants should be able to contribute effectively to addressing the climate crisis through educational events.
- Gathering, sharing and disseminating existing concepts and developing new, innovative educational opportunities to support tackling the climate crisis effectively.
- A European congress, which is itself climate neutral or climate positive. The educational activities should help to reduce CO2 directly as well as show solutions.
- Transfer before and after the congress is of key importance: the aim is for the participants to implement climate-effective solutions in their everyday work.
- Participants raise their awareness of the possibilities of education in the context of climate change.
Innovative and sustainable
At the previous European Forest Education Congress 2021 online "in Luxembourg", participants were given some homework: They were asked to carry out preparatory activities in their countries and to develop or improve existing educational activities on forest education and climate.
These good practices and experiences were then shared during the congress.
At the end, the participants were able to return to their home countries with the feedback from the other participants, the ideas and insights from the congress and with the next steps for further development as defined as possible.
For our guests from abroad, we could provide funds to partially reimburse travel and accommodation costs. We tied this to the condition of travelling by environmentally friendly means of transport (no cars unless they are full, and no flights). This resulted in the vast majority of participants travelling by public transport.
Tickets for public transport during the congress
In cooperation with the ZVV (Zurich Transport Network) we were able to provide personal tickets for the whole duration of the congress. It was valid for four days (Tuesday to Friday), Zurich city zone and for the two trips to Sihlwald and Rüschlikon on Tuesday and Thursday.
All proposed hotels have the "Green Leaf" label. In order to reduce the CO2 footprint a bit more (and to promote exchange and socialising), we also try to provide private accommodation. Unfortunately, we were only able to offer very few private accommodations, we assume that this was due to the fact that participants from Switzerland mostly do not live in Zurich.
For space and ecological reasons, we have limited the number of participants to 50 participants from Switzerland and 100 participants from other countries.
Over the three days, almost 120 people from 16 countries took part (not quite half of them (45%) from Switzerland).
19 workshops took place on 11 May in Sihlwald and on 12 May in Hönggerbergwald. They were organised and led by the Swiss partner organisations and participants from all over Europe. In addition, on Thursday afternoon, participants could choose from three voluntary thematic city tours.
Workshops 1: 11.5.2022, Morning, Sihlwald
- Sihlwald Nature Discovery Park Workshop 1
- Sihlwald Nature Discovery Park Workshop 2
- Sihlwald Nature Discovery Park Workshop 3
- Nature Museum Sihlwald
- "Change the future? Focussing on the energy topic – an outdoor approach by education for sustainable development." or "Change the future? Education for sustainable development on the topic of energy outdoors"
- Systems-thinking games in the forest as examples of climate change education
Workshops 2: 11.5.2022, Afternoon, Sihlwald
- Biodiversity inside us and around us
- Are aliens also in our forests?
- How are forest and climate connected? Join our playful forest education approach!
- With small steps, let's plant our trees, a present for children
- Close to nature forestry and climate change through mutual understanding and mutual respect
- In the kitchen of the climate - or how man turns from a spectator into a director of climate change
- Systemic Thinking and Action
Workshops 3: 12.5.2022, Hönggerberg
- Climate change "gets to the heart" of trees
- Making the invisible visible
- Forest Climate Weeks: Becoming part of the solution as a school class
- Think climate change out of the box – act for the forest of the future!
- Forest Laboratory Zurich
- Forest Experiments
Voluntary: various city tours
- www.konsumglobal.ch: City tour on the topics of "consumption and globalisation"
- nahreisen.ch: Excursion to the invasive tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the monitoring programme of the city of Zurich.
Self-guided audio tours
- myclimate Audio Adventure
- www.frauenstadtrundgangzuerich.ch 1
- www.frauenstadtrundgangzuerich.ch 2
The programme could be carried out as planned - also thanks to the good weather.
08:50 official Congress Opening (@Bahnhof Silwald)
Action – reflection (Work- and Walkshops mainly from CH)
09:00 Welcome & Start @Waldschule Hönggerberg
Action – reflection III (Work- and Walkshops)
08:30 Arrival, coffee & croissants @GDI Rüschlikon
09:00 Reflection on the past 2 days
Development of decisions for further action
Action – reflection II (Work- and Walkshops mainly from EU)
Ev. presentation of forest lab, ETH projects
16:00 Voluntary: various city tours
14.00 official closing of the Congress (@GDI Rüschlikon)
14:30 End of the Congress
15:04 Voluntary boat trip to Zurich
18:00-20:00: Voluntary Icebreaker Event: Guided tour Masoala Rainforest @Zoo Zurich, Apero
Dinner + Campfire
21:05: Special Train to Zurich HB, Arrival 21.31
Forest Communication Network - Subgroup-Forest Pedagogics
Naturschulen Grün Stadt Zürich
Wildnispark Zürich, Sihlwald
With the support of the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
This project is financially supported by Movetia
Under the patronage of the Association for Experience and Education in Nature ERBINAT
Congress Audios (German) and some quotes
Intro - Verena Schatanek
„From the three educational principles of the founding of the Zurich nature schools – living forests instead of forest dieback, no media and no competition - to the question of an appropriate narrative for today: how can climate change be addressed without people closing their minds to the threat? Not only getting people out and sensitising them to nature, but also showing them how they can empower themselves to do something in the forest, in nature.”
„The encounter with the forest should do justice to the whole complexity of human nature and life, as well as the diverse functions, demands and interests of and in the forest.”
„Learning outdoors to promote complexity competence. Adults have a duty to tackle change. Fortunately, outdoor learning is also good for teachers.”
„Neither romanticism about nature nor obsession with technology will lead to sustainable solutions. Learning outdoors does not automatically lead to a relationship with nature; it sometimes has to be built up first. But once the relationship is there, it can open up new spaces for reflection.”
Bonus - Forest Laboratory Zurich
Learning outcomes of the participants
The results of the workshops were recorded and made available to all participants online. The same applies to the results of the final workshop on the third day. In addition, the transfer method Troika Consulting was used, so that all participants could take away not only the learnings for their organisations but also considered, discussed and concrete next steps.
At the end of the congress, all participants were asked on site and by email to give open feedback to the organisers (by email), to themselves (online tool / email) and to the whole group ("online mandala"), preferably on the way home.
In addition, digital surveys (online forms) about the congress and the individual workshops were conducted after the congress. The surveys are still running.
For the longer-term effects, a survey of the participants is planned before the next congress (September 2023 in Bonn).
The view from the organising team
The cooperation between the SILVIVA Foundation, the Naturschulen Zurich and the Wilderness Park Sihlwald was strengthened on a personal, organisational and content-related level. We have all learned from each other. In addition to the "learning by doing" in organising the congress (especially organisational know-how), all three institutions have independently rethought and improved their environmental education practice in relation to climate protection.
A very concrete project is also being planned: we want to jointly supplement the "nature-based environmental education planning guide" of the Nature Schools Zurich (formerly the "ESD Toolbox") with aspects of climate change and have it translated into English and made available online...
Some quotes from the internal evaluation:
++ Anti-foodwaste models, in general the model character of how to organise the congress in an environmentally friendly way.
++ The cooperation with partners works: open, collaborative, creative.
++ The places chosen are very diverse and accessible: a real discovery so close to the city.
++ For the first time, the largest parts of a European congress outside: was really great, enriched the dynamics (even if we were lucky with the weather, of course) / Conducting outdoor workshops.
++ Seeing each other again "in real", exchanging, being together had priority and was necessary for the scene. Understandable after Covid.
(!) The whole form was very good, but in the end the congress format is probably not suitable to really take a step forward - at best to show the state of things.
(!) Exchange and mutual enjoyment is important - but does that justify the CO2 impact of such a large event? Do we have to work in a smaller, more focused, hybrid way in the future?
(!) For future congresses and conferences we have to take a step back and think: what do we really need? For the CH scene, for the EU scene? How do we combine the justified desire for exchange and networking (also informally), and the need to get out of the comfort zone into a new learning zone where we can find answers to our challenges?
- Specifically on the Panarchy method (last day): With so many people, I would reduce the number of runs. (But the method is great!)
Impact through the participants
To be honest, it is still too early to assess the impact on the participants in their daily educational practice. The feedback indicate a good foundation. Example:
„I really appreciate the 16th EUFP Congress. I think the suggestion to have every day in different locality was good choice. The order - to see at first the Wildnesspark Sihlwald, then the Waldlabor Forest and at the end to be in GDI - it was excellent. From my point of view, the best was at the end - the PANARCHY activity, I agree with the 15% of solution that we have, every one of us, in our hands. It is time to act.”